The Buffalo Bills finished the first half of the season with a 2-7 record. Here’s a look at how they have fared and what’s ahead:
First-half rewind: Coach Sean McDermott said last month he entered the season with realistic expectations for the season given where his team was "in the process," which was McDermott-speak for his team being in rebuilding mode. Quarterback was a glaring problem spot all offseason, which tempered expectations, yet there was a sense AJ McCarron could keep the position steady until first-round pick Josh Allen was ready. Instead, Nathan Peterman outperformed McCarron in the preseason, leading to McCarron being traded and Peterman starting the opener. Peterman flopped, Allen was forced into action before he was ready, and aside from a shocking, upset win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3, the Bills have generally been in a tailspin since. They enter Week 10 with less than a 0.1 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN Football Power Index. Grade: Bring on 2019
What is your team’s biggest hole to fill? Despite the Bills scoring a franchise-low 87 points through their first eight games, they kept their offense intact through last month's trade deadline -- and even added free-agent wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. Chances are the group will not rebound in the season's second half, leading to an offseason in which all positions on offense -- including backup quarterback -- should be under consideration for upgrade. Wide receiver tops that list, as Kelvin Benjamin and Pryor will become unrestricted free agents. The Bills have in excess of $80 million in projected 2019 salary-cap space, so expect them to spend big on wide receivers, the offensive line and potentially at tight end.
MVP: LB Lorenzo Alexander. At 35, Alexander is the oldest player in the Bills' locker room and enters Week 10 tied for the team lead with 4.5 sacks. The other candidates for MVP, cornerback Tre'Davious White and defensive end Jerry Hughes, both would be deserving, but Alexander is an unquestioned leader who is playing his best football late in his career. His voice has helped prevent division among a team in which one side of the ball, the defense, is being consistently let down by the other side.
Biggest surprise: Buffalo was expected to lean on its running game, but entering Week 10, the Bills are 23rd in rushing yards per game (97.2) and 30th in yards per rush (3.7) this season. The problems cannot be pinned simply on Bills falling behind in games and becoming pass-heavy in second halves; they enter Week 10 ranked 31st in first-half rushing yards per game this season (37.2) and 32nd in first-half yards per rush (3.1). Some blame should fall on a deficient offensive line, but there should also be questions about the Bills’ pair of 30-year old runners, LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. Among 52 running backs with 50 carries through Week 9, McCoy ranks 51st in yards per carry and Ivory is tied for 43rd.
Hurdle to overcome: Injuries at quarterback. Allen was knocked out of the Bills' Week 6 loss to at Houston because of a right elbow injury he suffered when he was sandwiched between two Texans defenders. That forced Derek Anderson, signed less than two weeks earlier after being out of football, into the lineup. Anderson suffered a concussion after back-to-back New England Patriots sacks late in a Week 8 loss. The Bills were trying to avoid starting the an interception-prone Peterman, but the injuries left them with no other choice in Week 9 against the Chicago Bears. Health at the position, which has been put at risk because of the offensive line, is hampering development of other players and stunting the progress of McDermott's rebuild.